A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino

A Midsummer's EquationA Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hari Cove is a small seaside town southwest of Tokyo. The Kawahata family, a mother, father, and 30-year-old daughter Narumi, runs an inn there that has seen better days. Narumi’s young cousin Kyohei comes to stay for a while during summer vacation. It’s past the tourist season and the inn has only two guests, a physicist there for a conference about drilling for minerals in the cove, and Tsukuhara, a retired detective from the Tokyo Police Department. The detective ends up dead, his body on the rocks over the sea wall. At first it’s thought to have been an accident, but it is soon found to be carbon monoxide poisoning. The mystery begins there and four groups start investigating: the Hari police, the prefectural police (more or less equivalent to state police), the Tokyo police, who believe the death may be related to a case he once had, and the physicist aided by young Kyohei. Yukawa, the physicist, it turns out, is known to the police as Galileo, a nickname, and is the brains of the outfit. He has helped the police before. The groups don’t always share their information with each other so we are seeing parallel investigations go on and get clues from each.

This is exactly my kind of book: a true whodunit solved with brainwork. The plot is devilishly clever and the suspense builds slowly as we get more clues that lead to the surprise ending. The reader is given a fair chance to solve it himself (or herself). There is no wasted space; every scene turns out to be important. The plethora of Japanese names may confuse the western reader, but it helped that I spent a few months in Japan as an exchange student. Re-experiencing that culture was a big plus for me with this book. I also liked that there was no foul language, gore, or sadism/cruelty. The reviews on this book haven’t been all that strong, the chief criticism being that it moves too slow and is thus boring. It definitely moves at a more languid pace that the typical western mystery. The science in it is important, though, so don’t ignore it. If you’re looking for an action thriller, this ain’t it. There’s no sex in it, either. Deal with it.

I’m very impressed with the translation. It seems very smooth, colloquial and credible, as though written originally by a native English speaker. I thought this book was great and I’m giving it my top rating.

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